The Functional Settlement Typology for SA provides a mechanism to profile (identify, calculate and analyse) a set of development information and trends pertaining to the towns and cities, as well as high density rural settlements across South Africa. The profiles enable the geographic specific analyses of the network of settlements, towns and cities and the hierarchical and functional relationships between them, especially related to government and economic service provision and migration. For more on the recently updated profile and typology of SA settlements click here.


CSIR/SACN City, Town & Settlement Typology

Insights & Use

It is estimated that almost 78% of South Africa’s population of 51.7 million people, reside within cities and towns throughout the so-called urban and rural landscapes. It is calculated that by 2011 of the 78%,, 42% of South Africa’s population resided within the four City Region areas of Gauteng, Cape Town, eThekwini and Nelson Mandela Bay; 7.5% lived within Cities and about 14% in a several large Service Towns and the remainder in smaller towns. Given that a further 12% of South Africans actually reside in high density ‘rural’ settlements and that a mere 14% of the country’s population reside further than 20km away from a formal town or city , it is evident that South Africa can no longer afford to ignore the fact that this country’s development challenges will need to be addressed within its network of cities, towns and settlements. Read more on urban settlement growth and its implications for the Integrated Urban Development Framework.

The average annual population growth rate for 1996 to 2011 for the South African population as a whole was estimated as a mere 1.85% (based on linear calculation of average growth for periods 1996-2001/2001-2011/1996-2011). For cities and larger towns (using the SIR/SACN Typology as basis for calculation) the average growth rate was calculated as 2.87%, pointing to ongoing trends of population concentration. Even though this is a relative slow rate, a trend of concentration is clearly evident. The population estimated to be living within or within a 20km distance from city regions, cities and towns in South Africa continued to increase steadily from 82% in 1996 to 83% in 2001 and to 86% in 2011.

The capability to view and compare development dynamics within and between cities, towns and rural settlements across South Africa (see Town Growth Profiler below) has made a major contribution towards understanding the challenges and opportunities associated with an increasingly city and town based population.

The profiles are currently utilised to analyses urban growth and population movement for the South African Cities Network’s State of Cities Report (2016) and the draft Integrated Urban Development Framework (driven by Cogta). It formed the basis of the Spatial Diagnostics Report prepared for the National Development Plan, Chapter 8 (2011) and has been used with major success in a the analyses of functional regions to inform a Spatial Job Driver Perspective to advance job creation and rural development; and in support of DRDLR Priority District Analyses.

The profile of cities, towns and settlements also provides a basis to inform integrated regional risk profile development for the South African Risk and Vulnerability Atlas, and demand analyses for the Bio Energy Atlas (2013). The CSIR/SACN Functional City, Town & Settlement Typology also forms the base platform to support regional scale land use modelling and the development of hierarchy of norms and standards for regional level social service facilities and has been used in 2013 by StatsSA in analysing household survey data for specific cities and towns.


The CSIR/SACN City, Town and Settlement Typology has been developed with the updated socio-economic indicators and meso scale geospatial platform, available on the stepSA Regional Profiler. It was originally born from a collaborative research project between the CSIR/Presidency/South African Cities Network and COGTA in 2008/2009. Background on the development of the original typology is provided in an article by Naude, van Huyssteen et al. and of subsequent updates in a short presentation by Eslona van Huyssteen. For more on the recently updated profile and typology of SA settlements click here.


Core Team:

Elsona van Huyssteen, Alize le Roux, Gerbrand Mans, Johan Maritz, Dave McKelly, Mawande Ngidi, Amy Pieterse (2014-2015; CSIR)

Acknowledgement to contributors for updates & dissemination:

  • SACN: State of Cities Report, 2015-2016 (Geci Karuri)
  • SACN & COGTA: Demographic Research Report to support the draft Integrated Development Framework, 2014 (Geci Karuri)
  • stepSA & DST: Policy Brief Series 2013
  • EDD: Spatial Economic Perspective: Functional Economic Network, 2014 (Damon Matfield, Wendy Mapira (EDD); Professors Mark Oranje & Andre Jordaan (UP)),
  • DRDLR: Rural Infrastructure: Priority Rural District Project, 2014 (Clinton Heiman);
  • NPC: NDP Spatial & Settlement Planning Diagnostic Report, 2010-2011 (Bea Drost; Phill Harrisson);

Acknowledgement to the original team (2008):

Elsona van Huyssteen, Alize le Roux, Andries Naude, Sharon Bierman & Manfred Spocter (CSIR); Seana Nkhale & David Schiffman (SACN); Yusuf Patel & Nellie Lester (former dplg); Hassen Mohamed (Presidency); Professors Sue Parnell & Owen Taylor (UCT); Mark Oranje (UP) & Alison Todes (Wits)

For more information contact:

Elsona van Huyssteen, CSIR


Alize le Roux,

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